The 1957 to 1958 Commission
A pennnant that was available from the ship's NAAFI for the 1957/58 commission
The Commissioning Ceremony at Rosyth in 1957
In July 2017, Terry Craig who was an electrical mechanician on HMS Gambia's 1957/58 commission very kindly sent these newspaper cuttings about the commissioning of the ship:
History was made at Rosyth Dockyard yesterday when the 8,000-ton cruiser HMS Gambia was recommissioned after a 12-month refit. She is the first major war vessel to be commissioned at Rosyth. Built at Wallsend, the cruiser was lent to the New Zealand Navy between 1953 and 1945 and saw action with the United States Third Fleet against the Japanese home islands. At the end of 1945 the Gambia was anchored in Tokio Bay and was present during the signing of the Japanese surrender.
The Navy Accepts £1,500,00 Refit
The cruiser Gambia (8,000 tons) was recommissioned at Rosyth dockyard yesterday after the first Scots naval dockyard refit since Rosyth opened in 1911.
The refit cost more than £1,500,00 and the Admiralty officially praised the Rosyth Doockyard men's job.
Image caption: Royal Marines drawn up on the deck ... ship's company on the quay - the cruiser Gambia is recommissioned after a Rosyth refit.
Inset: Vice-Admiral Pelly, admiral superindentent of Rosyth Dockyard.
Terry Craig is the sailor circled in ink at the center of the picture.
Terry also very kindly sent these photos of the commission:
Terry also remembers a little bit of trivia, "When we were stocking up with beer for our commission to the East Indies Station in 1957, a lot of it was stowed in between the bulkheads down below some storerooms. Inside the bulkhead was a painted flag of New Zealand. Must have been done when they stocked up with beer?"
This extract comes from Distant Drums: The Role of Colonies in British Imperial Warfare by Ashley Jackson.
HMS Gambia served as East Indies Station flagship in 1955-56 and again in 1957-58. Band Corporal Michael Hutton served aboard the cruiser during her 1957-58 commission. She sailed from Chatham on 17 October 1957 to relieve HMS Ceylon, then the East Indies Station flagship. The two ships met at Bahrein, where, on 6 November 1957, Gambia received the flag of the Commander-in-Chief East Indies Station. Gambia spent a month visiting places such as Um Qassar, Abadan, and Basra, 'where the ship's concert party gave its first performance, then back to Aden for Christmas.'
On board were twenty-five Somalian ratings under Chief Tindal, Noor Sulliman, a man with thirty-two years of Royal Navy experience behind him. They had been collected from British Somaliland on the way, and remained working on board the ship throughout its commission. Whilst in the Gulf Gambia took part in Exercise Crescent, a NATO and Baghdad Pact exercise involving the cruiser and two frigates from Britain, along with vessels from America, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.
After Christmas the ship sailed for Ceylon via Berbera in British Somaliland, where the band Beat Retreat on the beach. At Trincomalee half the ship's company went on leave, after which the Indian Cruise began, bringing visits to Madras, Vizagapatan, and Calcutta. Returning to Ceylon for minor repairs in dry dock, the crew went to the rest camp at Diyatalawa. Most of the band members were billeted with tea planters families, though Hutton spent a dry week with the Reverend Tom Arnold, who 'played a mean piano' but was 'a bit short on the hard stuff.'
After Ceylon, Gambia visited the west coast of India and called at Malé in the Maldives, where the band performed numerous concert parties and Beat Retreat. It was then on to Bombay, and, the Indian Cruise at an end, to Aden, 'where we stayed for some time due to local trouble'. A second Persian Gulf Cruise was cancelled, so the ship returned to Ceylon for the annual JET exercises, stopping off for a week in Karachi en route. 'Here there were many engagements to cope with, cocktail parties, dinners ashore at the High Commissioner's residence, and return visits on the Gambia.' The last week of the JET exercises were spent ashore by the band, who had acted as lookouts whilst the ship was at defence stations during the exercise.
Now the task was to train with the Indian and Ceylon Navy Bands for the combined Massed Bands Retreat that would herald the end of the JET exercises. HMS Gambia then embarked on 'the best and busiest part of the year, the East African Cruise, lots of hard work ahead but plenty of pleasure too.' Mauritius, the Seychelles, Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar, and Mombasa were visited before the ship returned to Aden and then sailed home to Chatham.
Bob Jackson was a Royal Marine on the 1957/58 commission. In August 2017, he very kindly sent these photos:
Distant Drums: The Role of Colonies in British Imperial Warfare by Ashley Jackson. Sussex Academic Press, 2010